The Billings Gazette publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are today's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Amazed by students, staff at Newman Elementary
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Newman Elementary School as part of the Billings Educator for a Day 2018. Principal Joe Walsh hosted a few community members that day at the school.
It was amazing. From the beginning of the visit through the entire morning, I was inspired and intrigued and encouraged by the energy, passion and investment of Walsh and his entire staff. Our visit began with five fifth-grade greeters from the student leadership team. The students were polite and respectful.
A school assembly then was launched with students in five colored shirts, sitting in their different houses (houses are made up of students from all grade levels) Valor, Innovation, Amity, Forte and Tenacity. These five houses are used to create an environment in which students feel a sense of belonging, and where the values of respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and safety are taught.
New students were welcomed as were we as guests into one of these five “houses.”
The youth were energized to attend and to learn at this school.
Math was taught with music and a dynamic teacher. English class was taught with creativity, using a medical approach, with students being dressed in medical gowns and wearing mask as they dissected and examined different English language content. It was called a class transformation, using a hospital theme. Creativity and innovation were key tools I discovered throughout day. I was indeed educated.
I take my hat off to SD2 and to Newman School staff/students.
Billings treats visitors well
Last month, two girlfriends and myself traveled by car from New York to Oregon. We took our time and visited many places; it was a marvelous trip. For two nights and one day, we were in Billings. These were two very memorable nights. The first night we had Chinese food delivered to our motel room. I regret that I didn't make note of the restaurant nor the delivery man's name. When I gave him a $100 bill thinking it was $20, he was honest and gave it back to me. I only had the one $100 bill and had forgotten I even had it and probably wouldn't have even noticed it missing. We were all so impressed by this man's integrity.
The following night, we had a lovely dinner at the Rib & Chop House on Majestic Lane. You can imagine our surprise when the waiter informed us that a gentleman at the bar had paid our entire bill — dessert and tip included! We were disappointed that he had left and we couldn't thank this man for his incredible generosity. If you are reading this, you made us feel very special. We will be paying it forward.
The three of us would like to say thank you to everyone we met. Billings was a highlight of our trip and a delightful place to visit with citizens you can be proud of. It was refreshing to see such goodness in people and we all hope to return for another visit someday.
Lakewood, New York
Bison coalition goal popular with Montanans
Ron Poertner of Winifred wrote to oppose restoring bison on the CMR National Wildlife Refuge (The Billings Gazette, Nov. 16, 2018). He misrepresents certain facts and maligns efforts of American Prairie Reserve and Montana Wild Bison Coalition, separate groups with support from within and outside Montana.
The Coalition is not a "propaganda arm" of APR. It originated independently with no connection, administrative or financial, to APR. That said, our objectives overlap and we do communicate. Readers may find our two objectives and more at mtwildbison.org.
Poertner's picture of bison destroying crops and grazing lands is inconsistent with Montana law (87-1-216) that protects and indemnifies private properties from any public bison. Fear-mongering is unattractive.
Poertner is correct that our governor has denied action to restore wild bison. Denial has been accompanied by years of pretense with working groups, public meetings, and a rather meaningless plan that is incomplete after three years. He brags that our governor's inaction is controlled by "fierce opposition" from rural communities and "most" Montana agriculture. A minority controls a public wildlife species, a national refuge, other national (BLM) lands and private landowners who appreciate bison. Yet polls show that 70 percent of Montana voters favor wild bison on and near CMR.
Poertner remains correct so long as Montanans and other owners of federal lands allow this miscarriage of democracy. The Bison Coalition seeks no control over private properties and is willing to explain its mission to all involved. But leadership from our governor's office is needed for any real progress.
Misleading primary candidate claims
During the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Montana I heard Michael Flynn, an Obama-Era officer, enthusiastically endorsing the one I call the flying sergeant Troy Downing for U.S. Senate on a Billings radio station. I may have promoted him by calling him a sergeant. As one who flew in combat in Vietnam, I can assure you that this Downing guy did not hold the aeronautical rating of pilot in the U.S. Air Force. No matter what civilian pilot licenses or ratings you hold, you cannot become a pilot in the U.S Air Force unless you attend Air Force pilot training. By entering the Air Force at age 35 Downing was way too old to enter pilot training in the Air Force. His political ads were purposely meant to mislead the viewer about what Downing had down while flying in the Air Force. As a person who has flown in combat myself, I find what he has done disgusting.
There was another veteran running against Downing who had spent many years on active duty as an Air Force doctor. We knew him as Dr. Al. He spent his whole life as a Montana resident. His family had been in Montana for many generations. He and Downing received about 20 percent of the vote each. Had the veteran Downing had not been in the race, I believe the veteran vote would have gone to the legitimate veteran, Dr. Al.
I understand Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his wife were heavily involved in promoting Troy Downing for U.S. Senate. Maybe it is time for Zinke to tender his resignation to Trump. I believe he is at least partially responsible for the Republicans not winning the U.S. Senate race in Montana this year.
Dr. W. David Herbert
Veterans want LWCF funding restored
Kudos to both our Montana Senators who support the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Never heard of the LWCF? Well, I hadn't. I enjoyed its results, though.
Last week 10-12 military veterans, including me, went to D.C. to lobby Congress to permanently reauthorize the LWCF and give it mandatory funding. The LWCF is the most important means to provide access and infrastructure for public lands, and, importantly, healing for military veterans.
Created in the 1960s with a 50-year lifespan, it has since been reauthorized for three years, but now expired.
Nearly every county in Montana has benefited during this time. You can go on line and you're sure to recognize places you've visited.
I'm a Vietnam era veteran who struggles with depression. We veterans are at risk for depression's most lethal effect, suicide. In D.C., we got to know each other. Many have PTSD.
Anyway, I got medical help — and a small dog — who required lots of walks. We hike often. We frequented local places, such as Lake Elmo State Park, Two Moon county park, and Pioneer city park.
Turns out these, and hundreds more in Montana, have benefited from money from LWCF. These funds provided hunting and fishing access, improved parking lots, even paid for playground equipment.
Notably, the funds comes from off-shore gas and oil leases, not taxpayers.
That's why I am thanking both Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester, who strongly support permanent reauthorization and dedicated mandatory funding for the LWCF on a par with funding for national parks.
Zinke protects Badge Two-Medicine
The Badger Two-Medicine on the Rocky Mountain Front is a sacred area for the Blackfeet tribe and one of Montana’s most spectacular landscapes This week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took an important step forward in protecting this part of Montana’s heritage when he moved to have the Department of Interior appeal a federal court ruling reinstating oil and gas leases in the Badger.
For decades, conservationists, hunters and the Blackfeet tribe have sought to protect the Badger-Two Medicine from oil and gas development. Oil and gas leases issued in the 1980s have long cast a dark cloud over the Badger and we applaud Int. Sec. Zinke’s decision to have these leases terminated.
Montana sportsmen and women have defended the Badger, not only for its recreational opportunities, but for the habitat it provides to the wildlife we care about, including elk, grizzly bear, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. We have joined with the Blackfeet in seeking federal protection for the cultural and spiritual values of the area. With Zinke’s help, this wonderful legacy is one step closer to be secure for this and future generations.
Dave Chadwick, executive director
Montana Wildlife Federation
Tom France, regional director
National Wildlife Federation
Money wasted on political campaigns
The 2018 election is over (well almost)! The Republicans' campaign ads state the opposing Democrat is a liar, doesn't have our values and is basically a smuck. The Democrat's ads state the opposing Republican is a liar, doesn't have our values and is basically a smuck! After six months of non-stop ads, enough already!
It is reported that $5.3 billion was raised for national campaigns. Here in Montana, millions (relatively small state) was raised/spent. All this to tell us the other guy/gal is a smuck. My personal analysis, is no matter who wins, we get a liar who doesn't have our values and an incompetent smuck.
Question: Why should we the people continue to donate to any candidate? Why? We are assured that the opposition is a terrible person without any moral compass. From today on, I for one will not donate to anyone running for political office. I'll instead my increase personal donations to organizations that do good in and around our community and nation. Money far better spent.
As for those who hate/object to corporate donors, let them spend their money on their favorite smuck. That way, the corporation loses either way! They're either out their corporate donation or their smuck did win.
The 2020 election cycle for fundraising will soon begin, for that you can be sure. Just imagine that $5.3 billion going to worthwhile programs which would truly be one of making America great again. Worth considering?
Help, hope offered for mental health
The holiday season can be challenging for many. The expectation of being cheerful and in a celebratory mood can leave those with mental and emotional health challenges feeling more depressed or in a heightened state of despair. There is help; yet cultural stigma often prevents people from reaching out for assistance.
The Yellowstone County Mental Health Advisory Board and Suicide Prevention Coalition of Yellowstone Valley remind people that there is help, and hope, for mental health illness.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available through the Montana Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), texting “MT” to 741 741 or visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The Mental Health Advisory Board and the Suicide Prevention Coalition invite you to join our efforts to eliminate mental health stigma and prevent suicide.
The MHAB meets the first Thursday of every month, from noon to 1 p.m. at LIFTT, 1201 Grand Ave. For more information about MHAB contact Brent Morris at 406-294-5189 or email@example.com.
The SPCYC meets the third Monday of every month, from noon to 1 p.m. at RiverStone Health, 123 S. 27th St. For more information about SPCYV contact coalition chair Nathan Stahley,firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.spcoalitionyv.org
Brent Morris, chair
Nathan Stahley, chair
Suicide Prevention Coalition
Speak up now to renew LWCF
Now that all the campaign ads have died down and the 2018 midterm election results are known, it’s important to highlight that even as divisive as some of the campaigns have been — the one issue that continues to unite us all is the importance of our public lands and reviving the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Despite the hopeful news of LWCF having a potential path to reauthorization and full funding that we have been hearing about, the program still is, in fact, expired. As a Montana business owner whose culture of work depends on our landscapes, our access to trails and recreation, and the opportunities awarded to my community by this fund, this is unacceptable.
LWCF should not have been allowed to expire in the first place, and with the lame duck session ahead, securing the future of LWCF seems more critical now, than ever. LWCF has funded nearly $580 million worth of projects to communities across our state, in the form of community parks, recreation centers, fishing access sites, and the connection of checker-boarded swaths of public lands so that all Montanans have the opportunity to use them.
LWCF does not just support recreation-driven businesses. It supports businesses of all types whose clients and workforce are driven by our outdoors, and it fuels the creation of jobs that invite talented individuals seeking a quality position with a thriving business to come to Montana and be a part of our growing, innovative, diverse economy.
We can’t be complacent. We can’t rest on the “hope” that a public lands package will go through. We must act on the reality that this conservation program is expired until an act of Congress says otherwise. Our livelihoods and our jobs depend on us using our voices to tell our leaders in Congress that LWCF reauthorization and full funding must be a priority.
CEO Neptune Aviation Services
Esp's opponent is predator friendly
John Esp is running for Montana State Senate in SD-30.
Last weekend we had another grizzly bear mauling in the Gardiner Basin buffer zone. Earlier, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the grizzly bear. The grizzly had recovered in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Wyoming and Idaho instituted grizzly hunts. However, Montana’s Fish & Wildlife Commission, led by John Esp’s opponent, succumbed to pressure from liberal environmentalists and green decoy groups. A Missoula judge stopped the hunt.
In 2015 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists proposed raising the Gardiner Basin wolf hunt quota from two to six. The proposal was shot down by the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission, chaired by John Esp’s opponent. Why was the five-man, governor-appointed commission so predator-friendly? It’s easy. Just follow the money at camptrackext.gov. Select the candidate. Read financial reports. It’s public information.
In Senate District 30, John Esp’s opponent reported $54,548 in donations. Donors in SD-30 gave $18,613. Those outside SD-30 donated $35,435 with $12,325 from out of state. John Esp reports donations of $20,640 with $470 from out of state.